I’ve spent the past two and a half hours writing a 750 piece on Steve Vai for Birmingham Weekly — the fifth rewrite I’ve done from scratch, and I’m still unsure of the end result. Doing the phone interview with him was an amazing experience — he’s incredibly laid back and easy to talk to (unlike some other ‘celebrities’ I’ve talked to), and amazingly humble, given his gifts and accomplishments. Writing the piece on him — and limiting it to 750 words — is akin to pulling teeth from an angry bull ape.

Vai has been — I’m not sure what the word is. Not my idol, really — I don’t really have too many of those, if any. Something to shoot for? The mastery the man has over the guitar, the vocabulary, the style, the unique creativity and vision — it’s humbling to witness, and inspiring at the same time. It’s hard for me to hear his music and not immediately want to pick up a guitar and simultaneously fear ever playing again.

Let’s compare it to reading the best of Mencken or Hunter Thompson, trying to imagine topping Warren Ellis’ or Grant Morrison’s situations, or making a movie that compares to ARMAGEDDON or PEARL HARBOR.

I’m joking about one of the above.


Talking about love is like dancing about architecture. And writing about the one person who inspires you in your chosen field (even if your chosen fields are many, like mine) is the same.

I’m overwhelmed, and taking a break. Thank god for X-Box golf.

A message to an unknown asshat

Dear asshat,

Thanks very much for stealing my bass amp out of my truck last night while I was loading up my gear. Your timing was perfect — who would ever think to steal an amp before the gig? Most people wait until after the show to steal equipment.

I hope you enjoy the rock that my amp will undoubtedly buy you. My best and brightest hope is that my $400 amp only gets you $10 at the local pawn shop.

Actually, my real hope is that you come into the pawn shop to hock the amp while I’m in there looking for you or the amp. That would make me happy.

Oh, and I hope you get hit by a large truck, and survive for many years afterward.


Waiting for the crazy

There is nothing so wonderful as receiving timely payment for a huge invoice.

Today is good.

I have added eel to my (rather short) list of acceptable sushi.

I have a new — and smaller — bed coming within a month.

I’m going to win the annual Oscar pool, damn it.

Steve Vai is coming to town soon. Devin’s gonna be in Atlanta with Strapping in April.

Hell, even 50 Cent sounds good today.

Let’s see how long we can ride this feeling. I have hopes that it will be a good long while.


Hey hey hey cool kids and everyone else…. My yet-to-see-print review of Strapping Young Lad’s ALIEN is popping up all over the net, most notably as the first and only review of the disc on the official Strapping website ( For those who give a damn, here it is, a full month before you can read it in glorious monotone:

The scariest brutality is that filled with passion, with intensity, adrenaline released with a smile. The angry outlash is one thing, but in a world of car bombs and xenophobic foreign policies and Amber Alerts, anger is the new meme, a joke told so often that the laughter is nothing more than knee-jerk reaction. ALIEN is not the rebellious young man seeking attention or euphoric release, but the laughing man with the baseball bat singing songs that might well signal the end of the world.

In many ways, this is the Strapping Young Lad that fans have grown to love. Press releases trumpet the coming of �City�, part II, and there is comforting familiarity in the haunting harmonies, the cinematic structures, the towering layers of sonic assault. Certainly, frontman Devin Townsend is at his peak, blanketing pounding rhythms and crumbling walls of guitar rumble with a unique melodic sensibility and poetic lyrical approach.

Gone, though, is the adolescent undercurrent of anger and voracious hate; this is radio music filtered through fingers that know better and shaped by one of the founders of the new wave of metal. Townsend, as usual, defies categorization, across tracks and within, venturing from thrash to pop to acoustic ballad, never pausing, breathless walk across the mindset of Armageddon. ALIEN signals the beginning and the end of extreme music, challenging the listener to let go and feel the joy of unhindered release.

I’m particularly proud of this one — an inspired bit. If only more music came along that brought out this kind of writing from me.

RIP, Uncle Duke

�He may have died relatively young but he made up for it in quality if not quantity of years,� Paul Krassner, the veteran radical journalist and one of Thompson�s former editors, told The Associated Press by phone from his Southern California home.

�It was hard to say sometimes whether he was being provocative for its own sake or if he was just being drunk and stoned and irresponsible,� quipped Krassner, founder of the leftist publication The Realist and co-founder of the Youth International (YIPPIE) party.

The world has lost a pioneer. So I drink a shot of whiskey — not my favorite, but appropos, I think — and hope to one day have the same impact his work had on me and so many others. With luck, Hunter has found his peace.